Even after their defective airbags resulted in a series of recalls and several deaths, officials at Japanese manufacturer Takata reportedly falsified testing information to representatives at Honda, the company’s largest buyer.
That’s according to internal documents obtained recently by The New York Times, via the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Legislators say this points to a pattern of lies by the company – even well after the seriousness of the airbag defect issue was widely known.
Testing at issue involved a newer component design. Although it did not go into production, as it was considered experimental, engineers at the North American branch of the firm said they were under intense pressure from headquarters to move forward with this new design, even as they staunchly believed it was most likely to fail.
These latest documents are part of a growing collection that have become public, showing employees were conceding the manufacturing processes were inferior and the test data was manipulated. Some seemed to be trying to draw attention to these problems.
These revelations came on the heels of speculation that as many as 90 million additional Takata airbag inflators could face recall in the U.S. Reuters reported that would quadruple the number of inflators recalled, following 10 deaths and hundreds of reported injuries.
An estimated 29 million of these defective airbags have so far been recalled, with some vehicles having multiple defective airbags. The company made between 260 and 285 million airbags with ammonium-nitrate-based inflators and marketed them around the world between 2000 and 2015. Nearly half of those are in U.S. vehicles, and it’s not clear at this point which of those may be defective. That’s why there is speculation that another 90 million cars are going to be recalled.
As our Montgomery product liability lawyers know, the problem is these devices, when deployed, fling shards of metal and other objects at rapid speeds directly into the faces and chests of drivers and front seat passengers. Vehicles in the Southern U.S. in particular are believed to be at risk because exposure to extended periods of high heat is thought to exacerbate the problem.
Honda was the single biggest client of Takata’s, and the company actually owns a minority stake in the airbag maker. Honda has recalled 8 million defective inflators in the U.S.
Many of these defective airbags are still being used because the manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up with the demand for replacement.
In the meantime, U.S. regulators fined Takata $70 million for repeatedly delaying recalls despite valid information these parts were not safe for consumers.
A number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by victims and families of those who were killed, alleging Takata was negligent in making a product that was unreasonably dangerous, failed to warn consumers about the risk and actively concealed the danger from the public.
These newly-uncovered internal documents, indicating the company was well aware of potential safety problems long before recalls were issued and federal regulators were notified, will further bolster those cases, as well as any future lawsuits. The records may also be used in the pursuit of punitive damages, intended to deter or reform defendant and others from engaging in the same or similar conduct.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Takata Faked Test Data a Year After Airbag Recalls, Report Says, Feb. 23, 2016, By Stacy Cowley, The New York Times
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